WITHOUT A PENNY IN MY POCKET
Marie S.C. Castro’s Without a Penny in My Pocket is a moving personal account of life on Saipan before and during World War II.
Castro’s story begins in the 1930s when the CNMI was part of the Japanese Empire. She describes her early childhood as a traditional, close-knit Chamorro family, at a time when island life revolved around the farm, family, and the Catholic Church.
Without a Penny in My Pocket also describes the warmth and security of Castro’s family life, contrasted sharply with the harsh discipline she experienced while attending elementary school taught by strict Japanese teachers.
That peaceful life was shattered with the outbreak of World War II, during which Saipan became a bloody battleground fought over by Japanese and American forces.
Castro recounts the terrifying three weeks during which her family, short of food and water and under constant bombardment, moved from place to place in search of safety, only to be found by American troops at the very end of the battle.
A few months later, Castro, who was 11 years old by then, along with other island youngsters, became guests at an American-style Christmas party hosted by the men of the 101st Naval Construction Battalion, the famed “Seabees.” This joyful and exciting event was Castro’s introduction to American life.
Following the war, Castro dedicated herself to the Church and became a nun in the Mercederian Order.
After teaching for more than a decade on Saipan, Castro started a new chapter in her life when she departed for a new assignment in Kansas City, Missouri—a journey she made “without a penny in her pocket.” That’s where she pursued a teaching career in Kansan City.
In the 1990s, she became reacquainted with the men of the 101st Seabees and began their very special Christmas party.
These and more, including her observations on the changes that’s been happening to the Chamorro culture resulting from modernization in the past 40 years, are featured in her book, Without a Penny in My Pocket. Readers will learn about Saipan’s history as well as the strength and resilience of the Chamorro people.
Castro, described as one of “an ever-shrinking group of eyewitnesses,” will be holding a book signing during the Northern Marianas Humanities Council’s one-day history conference on June 14 at the Royal Taga Hall of the Saipan World Resort in Susupe. Those interested can meet with her during the history conference.
The conference is part of the activities for the 70th Anniversary of the Battles of Saipan and Tinian.